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A warning from Zim's pale comrade
Percy Zvomuya, Mail & Guardian (SA)
September 28, 2009

On his website, Zimbabwean rapper Samm Farai Monro, better known to his fans as Cde Fatso, describes himself as "one of the most explosive and controversial acts" in the region.

Farai is the Shona term for "be happy" and in Zimbabwe today anyone called Farai lands up with the nickname Fatso, whether he likes it or not. Cde Fatso calls his genre "toyi-toyi poetry". His radical street verse, mixing Shona with English and mbira with hip-hop, is now taught at some universities in South Africa and Britain.

He is a white boy who has excelled at a black art form. It makes one think of artists such as the pale German ragga-inspired act Gentleman, the Italian ragga DJ Alborosie and even world celebrity rapper Eminem.

Last year the 28-year-old Cde Fatso and his band, Chabvondoka, launched their much-acclaimed album, House of Hunger, referencing the novel by deceased radical outsider Dambudzo Marechera. Not surprisingly, the album was banned on Zimbabwean radio but was celebrated abroad. The Globe and Mail in Canada described it as "undeniably alluring", whereas others made comparisons to Chimurenga music icon Thomas Mapfumo.

The Mail & Guardian put some questions to Fatso by email as he prepared for his gig as part of the African Connections series of concerts at this year's Arts Alive festival.

Will the revolution be televised?
When the revolution happens it will be authentically Zimbabwean and will coincide with a power cut. So televising the revolution will be somewhat difficult. But we will encourage comrades to send out SMSes to the masses telling them "Frdm iz here. Lng liv frdm!" So the revolution will be telephonic. We are just worried that comrades may be too broke to afford airtime. However, we are working on contingency plans involving smoke signals, beeping horns and banging pots.

Do you think ZBC, the national broadcaster, will agree to televise it?
ZBC is about as likely to broadcast the revolution as the ANC government is to provide affordable social services. In other words, hell no! So, I guess, against our will, we'd have to storm their studios and televise it ourselves. With the help of a generator, of course, because of the aforementioned power cut.

Given the history of the Zanu-PF revolution, is it wise to have another revolution?
Zanu-PF ended up merely taking over the master's house and painting it black. We called it "independence" but it still had the same repressive laws, the same centralised power, the same inequalities within. Sure, some progress was made in the 1980s as the Zanu-PF government made huge progress with education and health. Then they implemented IMF/World Bank structural adjustment programmes in the 1990s, which took us back decades. So, to call Zanu-PF's ascendance to government a revolution is like calling an orgy of violence an election.

What should those who come to watch you expect?
A riot. An insurrection. The revolution on stage. When I and my band, Chabvondoka, rip it up, it's an explosion of radical lyrics and insurrectionary music. It's freedom fighters meets hip-hoppers. Its Afrobeat meets chimurenga. It's a new generation of urban Africans using music to inspire and incite the continent.

An AK or a microphone?
I tried using an AK once on stage but found it too unwieldy -- bad sound effects -- and mistakenly maimed a few members of the audience. So I opted for a cordless mic instead.

Any word of advice to South Africans?
Watch out for the one-party state. Huge wealth gaps, massive unemployment, privatised social services, endemic violence, profits before people, aloof ruling class. It's a slippery slope, comrades.

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